Season delayed until July as England-West Indies Tests postponed

England are due to play three Tests against West Indies and three against Pakistan this summer

The shutdown on cricket in England and Wales will remain until at least 1 July, meaning the postponement of England’s Test series against West Indies.

No domestic competitions have been cancelled yet, but the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) will meet on Wednesday to discuss the inaugural season of The Hundred, which is due to start on 17 July.

The domestic season, scheduled to start on 12 April, had been delayed until at least 28 May because of coronavirus.

The ECB says it will look to schedule all international cricket between July and the end of September.

England women’s limited-overs series against India – scheduled to start on 25 June – has also been postponed.

ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said: “As much as we remain hopeful that we can deliver some cricket this summer, we are in the midst of a worldwide crisis and our priority – over and above the playing of professional sport – will be to protect the vulnerable, key workers and society as a whole.

“That’s why, simply put, there will be no cricket unless it’s safe to play. Our schedule will only go ahead if government guidance permits.”

England’s men were due to play three Tests against West Indies, starting on 4 June, followed by visits from Australia, Pakistan and Ireland.

The women were set for two Twenty internationals against India, followed by four one-day internationals in July.

After a board meeting on Thursday, the ECB said blocks for domestic first-class and limited-overs cricket will be included in a new schedule.

ECB planning for matches behind closed doors

Harrison said international and county matches could be played behind closed doors, with players and officials potentially staying in a “bio-secure” environment.

He told the BBC that the ECB is “starting to get comfortable with the idea that there won’t be crowds this summer”.

“Much of our planning is now based on what behind closed-doors-cricket might look like,” he said.

“If you talk about the measures the government has got in place through this lockdown and the subtle messaging that’s coming out about the longevity of some of the measures, probably the last lever the government is likely to pull is the one around mass gatherings.

“That is obviously something for us that impacts the ability to put cricket fans into stadia.”

The ECB will prioritise the most financially important forms of the game, its commitment to broadcasters and the growth of the women’s game.

To that end, the Twenty20 Blast, which was due to begin on 28 May and had 11 rounds of matches scheduled up until the beginning of July, will be pushed as late as possible into the season.

Nine rounds of the four-day County Championship have been lost, but the ECB moved to allay fears that no domestic first-class cricket would be played by stating that a window for red-ball cricket will be scheduled.

The men’s version of The Hundred, which will feature eight city-based franchises, is set to run from 15 July to 14 August, and the women’s competition from 22 July until 14 August.

‘Games could be played in UAE’

Surrey chairman Richard Thompson, whose county will host the Oval Invincibles, said he does not think The Hundred will be held this year.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I can’t see how in a season of four months you could possibly cram that in with an international schedule, which is crucial; the Blast, which is essential to the counties; and the County Championship, which is still the gold standard.”

Thompson also said it is possible to extend the season by playing matches in the United Arab Emirates.

The MCC Champion County match, the curtain-raiser to the domestic season, was played in Abu Dhabi between 2010 and 2018, and several counties often play pre-season matches in the UAE.

The UAE has been less affected by coronavirus than many parts of the world, recording 56 deaths so far.

“Abu Dhabi have made it clear that they could host matches if the season is to be extended,” said Thompson.

“If the season needed two months to finish the competitions, they could potentially host it. Abu Dhabi have got four grounds now and Dubai have got three. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility.

“There’s a significant cost to ship 18 counties to one location and to play a tournament out that way. But if there is no possibility of playing in this country then you’ve got to be creative.”

The suspension of all recreational cricket remains until further notice.

Link to Original Story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *